Reader Participation Day: Should A Federal Budget Stalemate Lead To Closure of National Parks?

With Congress struggling to come to terms on a federal budget, should the politicians extend the Continuing Resolution to keep the national parks and the federal government operating beyond March 4, or should they let the government shut down?

Concern has been growing that a government shutdown is looming due to the differences between the House Republican majority, the Senate's Democratic majority, and the White House over spending levels.

If a solution is not reached, or the Continuing Resolution not extended, the government could shut down after March 4. Exactly what that means remains to be seen. In 1995 federal agencies adopted plans to deal with a shutdown that November. According to a Washington Post story published Tuesday, Interior Department staffing levels during that shutdown were just above 50 percent of normal, although the story did not specify how the shutdown affected the National Park Service.

On Tuesday the Park Service's chief spokesman, David Barna, told the Traveler that officials were reviewing the 1995 plan and that there was no immediate word on how the Park Service would respond to a shutdown if one arrived early next month.

With that background, today's bottom-line question is this:

Is a possible shutdown of national parks and other government operations a reasonable solution if Congress fails to agree on a budget?

Comments

Perhaps the Warren Buffets of the world could consider expanding their scope beyond human charities to those places which contribute to our very survival, our National Parks. Perhaps the privatization of the system is in order. Go where the money and the will exists.

If a shutdown of the national parks and other government operations is necessary to get our spending under control, then yes it is a reasonable solution. We all have our pet projects that are "sacrosanct" but the reality is that we all will need to make sacrifices to prevent the utter destruction of our country. The US going bankrupt will have far more dire consequences than a temporary closing of parks and government offices.

Lawrence,

Privatization would seem to be as a disasterous option. What would prevent this from opening the door to chopping down the Redwoods, mining the Grand Canyon, turning open prairie into golf courses, etc.? Not to mention that a for-proft motive might also price the parks out of some families' budgets.

Privatization wouldn't necessarily mean for-profit. It just means non-government. There are many existing private organizations on a local, state, and national level that run or contribute to parks, museums, etc.

I'm with ecbuck. We as a country have to stop spending money that we don't have. I think that for now, we should cut back to only absolute essentials, those things that the Constitution said that the federal government should do. Once we greatly lower (or preferably eliminate) our debt, then we discuss what we should add back.

Mark

How do you close down a park? It is open space. Are there no rangers, no security? So what?. Sure "close" them down, it wont stop me using them.

So shut down the government to save money... every time that has been done the employees go home, no work gets done, when they get back there's more damage to the system due to lack of daily maintenence, leading to more back logged maintenence, costing tax dollars to repair, and the employees get paid for the lost time anyway, leading to a net loss. Explain to me again how this is going to fix the Federal deficit?
If congress would just get off their duffs and do whatever it takes, compromise, strong arm, whatever, to pass a reasonable budget, on time, shutting down the government would not be necessary. It does not save money, only creates more cost, And if we want a balanced budget, we have a choice, either cut services to everybody, so that the pain will be felt by all, or raise taxes, to everybody, proportionaltely to their income. I'd like nothing more than a flat tax. It would be fair, and creat enough money to run the country, without all the political posturing and bull/.....

A government shutdown may not be a reasonable solution, but it is probably what is required by our Constitution... "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law".

It is worth noting though, that if the Park Service were able to rely to a greater degree upon user fees and concession revenues, - enough to be self-sustaining - then Parks would not close in response to a government shutdown, since they would not be drawing money from the Treasury.

Of course, in a government shutdown, the closure of the National Parks is actually one of the most-visible consequences to the general public - and so may very well be part of the political game for one side to blame the other for the shutdown...

If we could just learn what we can do without the government it would be the best lesson to be learned. That's the biggest fear of those in government! Maybe we should try it. A corrective situation has been presented to us so lets learn the lesson and get on with it:).

At 87yrs old and retired for 25+ yrs I've seen and hiked in most of them --- so I'm done with 'em ! !! !!! !!!!
How selfish can one get ???? More seriously -- I think they are over developed, over visited, and the private
industries are over profiting on park land . However I'm sure glad that I do not have to solve these mixed problems ----- I hope future generations can see them all as I did.

Will Strong:
How do you close down a park? It is open space. Are there no rangers, no security? So what?. Sure "close" them down, it wont stop me using them.
It was an interesting discussion when Governor Schwarzenegger was threatening to close the California States Parks system due to budget shortfalls. The suggestion was that they would lock all gates, shut down all public facilities (including bathrooms) and perhaps keep a skeleton crew of law enforcement to keep people out. That wouldn't necessarily have kept people off trails though.

It might get interesting in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some NPS sites are public/private partnerships or public/public partnerships. The Presidio of San Francisco has active businesses and Golden Gate NRA includes heavily used roads. I would think something like the Rosie the Riveter memorial in a city park would stay open. Point Reyes NS doesn't charge admission and only has a few gates. They couldn't practically keep people out, and some park roads are the only ways to get to private residences and ranches within PRNS.

Yosemite NP has some private inholdings at Foresta and Wawona. Park roads are the only practical means to get to the private Yosemite West community. That could get interesting.

OK, here's my side. I am a 3rd year seasonal in maintenance for Kings Canyon National Park. I have a son in college, pay half of his costs, have my own household, and love the fact that I literally "Preserve and Protect" a wonderful treasure. I'M BROKE!!!! This job choice is not and never has been about the money. Perhaps if the "powers that be" came and watched the wonder and amazement in a young childs eyes when they see these things they might value our Parks a little more. Another note: If I were to do my job as poorly as our government is doing with balancing their budjet, I would rightously deserve to be thrown out on my butt!!!